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Motor Accident Compensation For 'Loss Of Future Prospects' May Be Awarded Even If Disability Not Result Of Amputation: Karnataka High Court

Mustafa Plumber
6 Jun 2022 11:30 AM GMT
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The Karnataka High Court has held that 'Loss of future prospects' has to be factored in, notwithstanding the fact that it is not a case of death but a case of injury without amputation resulting in whole body disability, which ultimately has a bearing on the reduced earning capacity.

A division bench of Justice Krishna S Dixit and Justice P Krishna Bhat sitting at Dharwad said,

"In spite of vast progress made by mankind in the field of science and ingenuity of the human mind, he has not, as yet, been able to invent a barometer or establish a scientific method for making an exact estimation with mathematical precision the correlation between the physical disability suffered and impact it would have on his reduced capacity to earn over a period of time in future. Inevitably, therefore, some amount of educated guess work needs to enter this domain."

Accordingly, it upheld the compensation awarded by the Motor Accident Tribunal to a claimant, Abdul Tahasildar, a tailor, under the head and modified the amount granted having regard to the fact that "he was aged about 40 years at the time of the accident, 25% of his established income will have to be factored in towards compensation for 'loss of future prospects."

Case Details:

The claimant suffered grievous injuries when he was returning to Hubballi from Kerur in KSRTC Bus in 2019, which collided against a hardly visible lorry, which was parked partly by the side of the road and partly on the tar portion.

The Tribunal allowed his claim petition in part and awarded a compensation of Rs.5,23,000/- with interest, with liability to pay the same, apportioned in the ratio of 70:30 between respondent Nos.1 & 2 (public bus department) on the one side and respondent Nos.3 and 4 (offending driver and insurance company) on the other.

The insurer of the offending lorry filed an appeal challenging the order of the tribunal. Even the claimant filed an appeal seeking enhancement of the compensation award.

Insurance company argued:

The insurance company questioned the award of compensation made by the Tribunal under the head loss of future earning capacity due to disability. It was contended that the evidence of the Medical Expert, as well as that of claimant is not entitled to be accepted and further on the said basis, it was improper on the part of the Tribunal to have come to conclusion that the claimant had indeed suffered loss of future earning capacity due to the disability. Incidentally, he also questioned the extent of physical disability suffered having impact on the assessment of the earning capacity of the claimant made by the Tribunal.

Further, it was said that the Tribunal while coming to the conclusion that the claimant had suffered physical disability to the extent of 20% resulting in diminished future earning capacity of the claimant made reference to the nature of the injury suffered by the claimant which in fact is a fracture of the left lower limb and also the evidence of Medical Expert, touching upon the residual incapacity which lingers in the said limb even after undergoing complete treatment.

Findings:

The bench observed that the claimant was running a tailoring business, which undeniably requires an "able body" and more particularly a "fully functional pair of lower limbs". Thus, it was of the opinion that it would be unrealistic and almost nihilistic on the part of the Tribunal to ignore the philosophy of the Constitution of India in the process of their decision making which sets great store by the dignity of human-being.

It added,

"The "life" as encapsulated in the Indian Constitution does not merely view human life as a conglomeration or an assemblage or the cobbling together of the individual constituent parts but as an integrated core which has a purpose, content and dignity. Any disability, therefore, to any limb of the body which has a role to play in the functional-economic sense indubitably causes its effect on the whole body warranting curial intervention in its reparative and recompensing role."

Rejecting the contention of the insurance company that the component of loss of future prospects can be factored in while awarding compensation under the head of loss of future earning capacity where disability arises due to amputation alone, the bench said,

"A catena of decisions emanating from the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Sandeep Khanuja vs. Atul Dande, Jagadish v. Mohan and others and Erudhaya Priya v. State Express Transport Corporation Limited6 2020 SCC Online SC 601, make no such distinction in regard to applicability of 'loss of future prospects' to cases of physical disability resulting in loss of earning capacity from injuries with amputation of the limbs and without amputation of the limbs."

Further it observed, "This kind of arguments advanced at the bar by the learned counsel appearing for the Insurance Company only brings to sharp relief the urgent need for updation by the learned counsel of the fast changing approach of the law inconsonance with the felt necessities of the time without which the precious time of the Courts will be wasted in needlessly dwelling on the same."

Then the court said,

"This component of 'loss of future prospects' is a forensic tool forged by the Supreme Court to off-set the adverse effect of imponderable vagaries of inflation on the assessment of loss of future earnings. To link this component only to disability arising from amputation of limbs defies logic and has no sanction of law."

The court opined, "It is undoubtedly true that it is not part of the statutory law governing the field of award of compensation in motor vehicle accident cases. But, Courts are enjoined under law to award "just compensation" and no compensation can be regarded as just unless law is capable of reinventing itself by making proper adjustments as the "needs of the time require". Judges sometimes make law if the statutes made by the Parliament fall short of meeting the requirements of the time."

The bench accordingly allowed both the appeal in part and said, "The claimant is entitled to total compensation of Rs.6,11,000/- as against Rs.5,23,000/- awarded by the learned Tribunal. The total compensation will carry interest @ 9% per annum with effect from 26.07.2016 i.e., the date of closure of the evidence as against the date of claim petition awarded by the Tribunal."

Case Title: NEW INDIA ASSURANCE COMPANY LIMITED v. ABDUL S/O MEHABOOB TAHASILDAR, and C/W matter.

Case No: MISCELLANEOUS FIRST APPEAL NO. 103807 OF 2016

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Kar) 192

Click Here To Read/Download Judgment



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